I’m bilingual. Yep, I speak Evangelical and English. I learned Christian talk as my first language, so I can be one of the biggest offenders sometimes, but Christianese absolutely drives me bonkers these days! Yes, I drank the Koolaid, but now I’m wondering: Why can’t Christians just talk normal? Evangelical talk is so cold, insular, and frankly obnoxious.
When you really think about some of the things Christians say, it’s goofball insider talk, and none of it sounds like Jesus at all. It is designed to impress, stay superior, judge with a clear conscience, and it is rotten. And lazy. It’s a foolproof way to say to a non-Christianese speaker, “Yes, you are an outsider, and you do not fit in here.”
I am being challenged and held accountable to keep from getting caught up in the rhetoric of dated language and religious expression. Maybe the Christian community needs to hire a marketing firm to come up with new messaging that will appeal to today’s normal people.
Every time I hear Christianese, I make it a point to remind myself that I will not talk it. But sometimes it still dribbles out of my mouth when I least expect it. At times, I revert back to that Sunday School first language without even realizing. And I think I probably make Jesus facepalm a lot.
But we need to be real with ourselves and with the rest of the world. When there is loss, don’t quote scripture, or say it is all in God’s hands. Let yourself FEEL with that person, cry, yell, cuss if you need to. And that allows the other person to have the freedom to do the same.
Bad things happen, and I don’t believe that it is always because God willed it. We live in a messed-up world, and when bad things happen, I believe God hurts too. Because…Jesus wept when Lazarus died.
“All things work together for good” was said to me more times than I can keep track of during my ex-husband’s affairs, getting breast cancer, going through chemo. I do love Jesus, but I‘ve never wanted to punch so many Christians in the face.
Think about it – Jesus didn’t go around spouting off clichés. He washed feet, he fed the hungry, he hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors.
Here are some (not so) funny examples of what Christians often say and what non-churched folks hear or think:
“I’m saved.” / “Saved from what?”
“Are you a believer?” / “A believer in…climate change? UFOs?”
“We planted some seeds today” / “You started a garden?”
“Quiet Time” / “Is that like a time-out?”
“Lord, I lift Emily up to You” /
“Witness” and “Testimony” /
“Circumcise our hearts” Um…I don’t even know.
Or how about:
“I was backsliding so I nailed my sins to the cross and rededicated my life, and my faith was re-ignited and I was ushered into glory.” Bleh.
“Father God, we just bathe Julie in prayer and ask you to put a hedge of protection around her, so that the principalities of the air will not cause her to stumble. We pray she will humble herself and turn from her wicked ways so the Shekinah glory of God will fall and she will be edified by your anointing.” Lord help us!
And my personal stumbling block (oops, there’s one again): Overusing the word “just” when I pray. “Lord, we just come to you today…” “We just pray that…” and “We just ask…” WTF?
Why do we say:
“Fellowship” instead of “getting together”?
“Have a heart for” instead of “love”?
“You’ve been on my heart” instead of “I’ve been thinking about you”?
“Travel mercies” instead of “safe trip”?
“I covet your prayers” instead of “please pray for me”?
“Pouring into people” instead of “helping or loving people”?
“I have a check in my spirit with him” instead of “I can’t stand him”?
“A spirit of heaviness” instead of “depressed”?
“Are you in the Word?” instead of “Do you read the Bible?”?
“Of the flesh” instead of “Physical” (not spiritual)?
“Washed in the blood” instead of “forgiven by God”?
“Amen” instead of “yep”?
And Please Just Stop:
Talking about “God’s perfect plan” while ministering to someone about incurable brain cancer or a lost pregnancy? Hard pass.
Saying “Love the sinner, hate the sin” Just no. There’s no good alternative because it’s inherently flawed (and not in the Bible). This phrase is so short on love and long on judgment, I just (vomit face) when I hear it.
Just as Jesus warned the religious folks of his day to avoid vain repetitions in prayer, we need to stop using these vain repetitions in our speech. No more shallow, meaningless, tired words, please. All I hear now are clanging cymbals (oops, there’s another one escaping out of my mouth.) So whether you’re still speaking King James English from the 1600s or Televangelist phrases from the 1970s, let’s just all stop and talk normal.
3 thoughts on “Christianese”
I liked this Karen. Good job. All these years later, my love and belief of / in God is still there. Too much has happened for me to doubt. Christianese talk hits a sore spot with me and I cringe a wee bit. For me, just because the lingo isn’t used, it doesn’t mean the faith and love has been shaken. It’s still there.
I totally agree, Laura! My love and belief in God is what makes me want to care about others enough to change my language!
This is so funny, yet not funny. We need to break these communication barriers and talk so the common people can hear us gladly. What’s with King James Version in the 21st century? Are we conspiring to make sure people don’t understand the Word of God? God bless you for shining the light on our balderdash!